Most outsiders don’t know it, but April is a special month in Key West. The island becomes extra-animated with parties celebrating the Conch Republic Independence Celebration, when Key West momentarily seceded from the United States. Festivities include the longest parade in the world, pub crawls, fake battles, dog costume contests and other off-beat traditions.
For those who don’t know, the Conch Republic was established in 1982 after the U.S. Border Patrol set up a roadblock on one of the two roads that connects Key West to the mainland, which resulted in heinous traffic jams. Key West residents protested after seeing this act as a threat to their livelihood and the tourism industry. However, they didn’t use banners, signs and marches – they seceded.
Well, not officially.
Former Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow declared the secession as more of a joke than an actual act of treason. And while the actual “revolution” lasted only a minute, the roadblock was later removed. Today, the festivities surrounding the 38th Conch Republic Independence Day are driven by the republic’s mission “to bring humor, warmth and respect to a world in sore need of all three.”
Locals never miss an opportunity to exhibit their “sovereign state of mind” – as you’ll see in their annual celebrations.
This year’s Conch Republic Independence Celebration kicks off April 17 with a breakfast at Two Friends Patio, raising the conch colors at Mallory Square, and in the evening, a party at the Schooner Wharf Bar, the official “unofficial” bar of the Conch Republic. See the schedule for times.
Other events include the “Great Bloody Sea Battle” (fought with water guns and stale bread); the World’s Longest Parade, which spans from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico; bar crawls, costume contests, and more.
Another worthwhile activity includes The Great Conch Republic Drag Races on Duval, raced by drag queens (would you expect anything less?!). Men from all walks of life stuff their shirts, dawn crazy-colored wigs and scant around in tight, short skirts, all while racing to complete an obstacle course filled with tires, shopping carts and tightropes down Duval Street.
So pack your costumes, grab a bottle of rum and “secede where others failed.” Get to the Conch Republic Independence Celebration from April 17 to April 26, 20120, and stay at the 24 North Hotel, the “unofficial” hotel of the Conch Republic. We’re located about 10 minutes from all the festivities.
We have modern rooms that are smartly furnished, a large pool, restaurant & bar, Starbucks, and hourly shuttle service to and from Old Town. Plus, if you want some peace and quiet away from the festivities during your downtime, we're in just the right spot.